George Floyd Murder Trial Begins on Monday – Voir Dire Questioning and Security Taking Shape
In anticipation that the trial of officer Derek Chauvin will begin as scheduled, we learn from ABC 5 Eyewitness News in Minneapolis about the security measures, the special trial media room, and the pretrial jury questionnaires. The Free-Lance Star provides a photo of the razor wire fencing around the courthouse. Fox 61 TV News reports the court there is engaging six local social media influencers to use their platforms to combat misinformation during the trial. The partnership is “geared towards communities of color and those who don't rely on traditional media for information.” Toward that goal, city leaders posted a statement that included:
The City first collaborated with cultural social media partners prior to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in 2018. We realized that posting information in English and other languages, such as Spanish, Hmong and Somali on our City social channels would not be enough. Through partnerships with community members, we were able to post timely information on street closures, transit changes and other important public information on the City account in multiple languages and the partners amplified the translated messages to their own networks. The social media partners also were able to contact the City if they heard a rumor or a concern so that we could quickly verify the information and share out a corresponding message."
Federal Bills Would Outlaw Striking Jurors for Being LGBTQ
Included in the Equality Act (H.R. 1) is a provision amending the Jury Service and Selection Act (28 USC 1862) to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of prohibited exclusions from jury service. NBC News now reports that Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y, introduced the Juror Non-Discrimination Act of 2021, a standalone bill that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected categories in jury selection even if the Equality Act fails to cross the finish line.
Judge Authorizes Discovery of Grand Jury Selection Questionnaires
We previously reported (Jur-E Bulletin 11/13/20) that Rickie Patterson Blake, accused of partaking in a broad price-fixing scheme in the broiler chicken industry, was asking a federal judge in Colorado to authorize the collection of demographic information about grand jury members who handed down his indictment. He claimed that the grand jury selection process systematically excluded those of "certain races and ages" who wanted to be excused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal judge Philip A. Bremmer has now issued a ruling. He denied the motion with respect to demographic information about the grand jurors because that jury was empaneled in 2019 before the pandemic struck. However, Law 360 reports Blake will be able to get jury questionnaires for grand jurors picked for his grand jury, as well as basic demographic information for the list of potential jurors and those who were sent summonses and questionnaires, with identifying details removed.
Convicted Former West Virginia Chief Justice Obtains En Banc Review of Juror Misconduct Claim
In 2018 former West Virginia Chief Justice Allen Loughry II was convicted of seven counts of wire fraud, two counts of making false statements to investigators, and one count of witness tampering and mail fraud. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed to hear en banc Loughry’s claim that the verdict was invalid because a juror improperly used her Twitter account to like and retweet comments and news articles criticizing Loughry in the months preceding the trial. The defense also alleges the juror tweeted about the case 73 times during the trial, including about the strength of the evidence. Law 360 reports (subscription required) that two members of a three-judge circuit panel previously denied Loughry’s request for an evidentiary hearing. The majority of that panel reasoned that the juror had “some pretrial exposure to news of the investigations of the West Virginia Supreme Court justices and participated modestly in the public dialogue via a few ‘likes’ and retweets on Twitter.” The panel found noteworthy that “she engaged in no prohibited contacts or communications during trial.” To that, the defense now argues to the full 4th Circuit that, without an evidentiary hearing, “There is virtually no scenario in which a defendant could ever establish that a juror passively viewed a tweet or similar social media content, even where the circumstantial evidence suggests it is extremely likely that a juror did.”